Look closely at this piece of fossilized amber and you’ll spot something unusual: a cockroach trapped with its own feces (arrow).
The find, recovered from Myanmar’s rich amber deposits, is 99 million years old. Cockroach feces are quite common in amber samples (as are the feces of termites, which are hexagonal instead of pellet-shaped), but it is rare to find specimens in which both deposit and depositor are preserved together.
Kamili wrote: »
Ancient amber contains a cockroach—and a surprisehttps://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/ancient-amber-contains-cockroach-and-surprise?utm_campaign=news_daily_2020-03-10&et_rid=399746071&et_cid=3239727
The team named their find Oculudentavis khaungraae, which means "eye tooth bird", and its appearance is every bit as mishmashed as its name.
The jaws on this little dino are lined with small pointy teeth; judging by the spoon-like sockets, the animal's two bulging eyes would have stood out in stark contrast to its tiny frame.
Frankly, it looks downright weird - not quite like a bird, nor quite like a dinosaur. But there are some clues that can tell us a little bit about its lifestyle.
The teeth, for instance, are a dead giveaway that the little dinosaur ate prey. And the openings in its eye sockets are quite narrow, which means light was probably restricted, implying activity in the daytime.
All this points to Oculudentavis fitting in its own category, rather than being related to modern hummingbirds - because the flying jewels of today feed on nectar, and don't sport teeny tiny chompers. Thus, the researchers think creatures like the hummingbird took a different path to miniaturisation.
Weighing in at an estimated two grams, the team notes that Oculudentavis is about one-sixth the size of the smallest known early fossil bird - many of which did sport teeth, just like this little guy.
There are even some bizarre features, like the shape and size of the animal's teeth and eye sockets, that are not seen in either dinosaurs or birds. In fact, these more resemble... lizards.
"Nearly all of these unusual morphologies can be interpreted as the effects of miniaturisation," the authors write.
Take the bulging eyes on either side of the Oculudentavis head, for example. The location and size of these sockets probably represents an "alternative strategy for increasing eye size without further increasing the size of the orbit".
Kamili wrote: »
I was just coming on to post that one, super interesting...